Or maybe it's because the California LGBT population has cannibalized its leadership to the point where no one is willing to take the unpopular stance of leading this wounded community made up of people that will bite anyone's head off who has a slightly different opinion from theirs.
Whatever you believe the reason to be, the Leadership Summit on Sunday was an utter failure. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Our community has splintered into factions lead by no one, going in all different directions with various agendas, some with good intentions, but many motivated by egos in attempt to out maneuver the other, causing us to fight each other instead of those who have taken away our rights. And why? Because our leadership once failed us in a disastrous campaign which ended not with rights being denied us, but rights we enjoyed being stripped away from us, leaving us naked and exposed. And now we're so anti-leadership, we have spiraled into a quagmire of anarchy with no visible way out. ("The Tyranny of Structurelessness.")
And we're still grieving the loss of our rights. Right now, we're in the angry phase of grieving, but instead of channeling our anger in the proper direction at those who were truly responsible for taking our rights away (NOT our leadership), we're behaving like humans and taking it out on our brothers and sisters. (Read "Marriage Amendments and Psychological Distress in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) Adults.")
I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about what happened at the Leadership Summit. I streamed it live, I recorded it, you can watch it. But it boils down to this:
- Hard working organizers struggled long and hard to have a successful summit and took lots of consideration into putting together an agenda.
- Attendees showed up, decided to more or less ignore the agenda (which wasn't, sadly, sent out in advance so attendees weren't prepared), crucified "the experts" and ran an ad hoc meeting.
- People hissed and booed those they didn't agree with, spoke over each other, shouted out cuss words, and debated every single tentative, progressive step forward. Yet at the same time, many attendees demanded a final decision be made on when to return to the ballot without agreeing on a process or getting the rest of the community's input.
- Ended with nothing accomplished. No next steps, no decision on when to return to the ballot, no agreed upon process to decide when to return to the ballot, no agreed upon deadline for a decision on when to return to the ballot. (The Coalition of the Willing was not agreed upon.)
- Oh, and a last minute straw poll about 2010 vs. 2012 while people were filing out to leave, which was a last ditch effort to feel that something was accomplished but means absolutely nothing other than highlights the dire straits we find ourselves in.
Just the other day, I posted an audio recording of a secret meeting with Ron Prentice whose Protect Marriage group was responsible for Prop 8. At this meeting, he gleefully asked that attendees pray for LGBT divisiveness on this issue. He then said, "Which sounds typical, doesn't it?"
Maybe there is a God. Because it appears their prayers have been answered.
But the Leadership Summit wasn't a complete failure. It illuminated many facts about the state of our community.
First, we're not done grieving our loss brought upon us by Prop 8. The full scope of its damage has yet to be seen by us because we're still too close to it. We're emotional and want the pain to end, resulting in many of us wanting to rush blindly back to the ballot, and who can blame us? (I myself wanted to rush back at one point.) But we have failed to see that Prop 8 did much more than strip us of our rights. Its tragedy has also made it nearly impossible to gain them back anytime soon in the near future. 2012 seems light years away, and we're going to have to live with this burden of second-class citizenship until then? (Don't get me started on the many other inequalities, not just marriage.) As for 2010, I honestly used to think we could do it, because collectively and united, we really could. But after witnessing the Summit, I just don't see it happening, even with the dedication of the pro-2010 groups. Nor do many major donors it appears. (I understand a great but small meeting took place after the summit, but again, many had already left and yet again, it's another faction.)
Second, we have become what we've hated. Right after the election, we were right to be angry at our leadership. We were right to demand accountability, something that was missing during the campaign. We were right to demand an apology for such a historical mishap, which has failed to occur. But we have taken it too far and for too long. In such a short amount of time, we have cannibalized our leadership to the point where we barely have any, and those who remain have nearly given up on the community, refuse to take a stand to lead again, or have been forced into the shadows to do things, yet again, without community involvement. (After witnessing the summit, who would want to involve us?) We are now what our leadership once was - unaccountable.
But also in this short amount of time, we have failed to see the new leadership for what it is. Accountable to us. Open. Willing to listen. Vocal. And all this almost to a fault. Why? Because we have lost our trust. We demanded to take the responsibility away from them and do it ourselves, many of us with no experience. And we have the right and power to do that. They are our leadership after all. But look where it's got us! After the summit, no one knows what to do now and we have no map! This isn't like an improv troupe with no director. We can't improvise this!
We need to trust our leadership again. But they need to remain accountable, something that didn't happen before.
Rick Jacobs of Courage Campaign, whom I admire and for whom I hold deep respect, needs to stop dissing EQCA in the press. Rick needs to sit down with Marc Solomon, EQCA Marriage Director, and work it out (this includes Torie Osborne, Robin McGeHee and many others). Marc Solomon, Marriage Director for EQCA, whom has earned my respect and trust, and EQCA itself, need to stop trying to one-up Courage Campaign in an attempt to keep EQCA relevant. I call out these two, not only because I know them well, but specifically because Courage Campaign has rightfully gained a lot of the grassroots trust through its amazing Camp Courage sessions throughout the state, but has also been hellbent on taking the lead away from EQCA. Geoff Kors of EQCA, doing something smart and staying out of the picture, hired Marc Solomon. Marc has, since his arrival, done great work for the community, including marriage efforts, and for me, has restored EQCA's respect, but he has also done his share of pulling the rug out from Courage Campaign in an effort to stay relevant.
I call out Love Honor Cherish for steamrolling their position and strong-arming many in the community to follow them or take the highway. I call out the Prepare to Prevail Coalition for its tendency in the past to be isolationists and not truly engaging in discussion (at one point, yes, they were stonewalled out, but that is not the case anymore and they need to engage, especially if invited to discuss their views). I call out the grassroots activists and community organizers - YOU ARE NOT EXPERTS. Stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater and LISTEN.
If these organizations and coalitions, along with Marriage Equality USA, can just drop the shit and finger pointing, sit down and together form blueprints for both 2010 and 2012 (delegates from each locked in a room together), stop coddling the community and actually lead us in a common direction, then we may actually get somewhere. They set the tone. They set the example. Lead. We follow.
We need to heal. To heal, we need to trust. How can we possibly even think about doing another campaign when we can't even sit in the same room with each other for a few hours, such as at the Summit? And the sad thing - we're all on the same side but view each other and our leaders with disdain. We have lost sight of the fact that we have all been hurt by Prop 8, all have good intentions and have all but forgotten the opposition - who by the way, is literally watching us with smug smiles on their faces.
It's time for us to get over it and move on to a better future. It's not about "repealing Prop 8" anymore. Prop 8 is done. It's in the history books. ITS BLOT IS NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY. We can turn that into what motivates us! What we have to do now is unite, show the world who we are, educate them about us, show them what a mistake Prop 8's existence is, and that when they have another chance to vote on it on a brand new initiative, they won't even have to think about it and we'll have the right to join in on marriage.
But that can't happen without our healing. And that requires trust. This may seem like one of the most negative posts I've ever written, and maybe it is, but I also know what I've seen, and I'm calling it out so it can stop. Because for me, after witnessing the Summit, it's not about 2010 or 2012 anymore. It's about us uniting. Only then, can we win.
Trust the leadership again. Trust that they'll make the best decisions they can with the community in mind. Then shut up, get in line and get to work. We have our rights to win back.